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Author Topic: The Art of Writing  (Read 1015 times)

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Offline Chevalier des PoissonsTopic starter

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The Art of Writing
« on: August 04, 2010, 05:56:53 pm »
I have been recently noting around here – and by ‘here', understand ‘the internet’ – how it is very usual for someone to get impressed when reading a huge text, and refer to it like "it is a bible". Even more, I also notice that, on the crushing majority of those cases, even the author of such text uses to refer to it like it was a product of a great work and effort. It may be just a slight impression of mine, but I see that the act of writing seems to be something that requires a lot of effort.

Well, then I have possible bad news for those who think the last paragraph makes any sense: there is absolutely no mystery on writing a long text. Of course, I am going to disconsider the obvious part that remind us that quantity is –not- quality at all. And yet, I am going to focus my point on the matter of writing something outside of a debate. I could talk about debates too, but I will do that in another moment.

Alright, let's say that you want to become a writer. Then you get a random book like Lord of the Rings, because your cousin decided to get you a gift out of nowhere. Then you open the book and notices that each volume has about 365 pages. To imagine that Tolkien wrote all of that only with his hands, page by page, on an average of one page per day, assuming that he would've used exactly one year to write all of that, is very much excruciating. I agree with that.

Well, then would the solution be not to think about it?

Personally, I will say no. Why? Because I believe that, when we try to make automatic any processes inside our minds, we eventually end up losing control over them, and a writer needs to be independent, to have control of all of their creative process, so s/he can be able to write anything at any moment. That's why I don't believe in “muses” and I despise such concept very much. I mean, however, no disrespect for those who use muses to create something. To each their own.

Very well, that said, and notice how I just used four words solely to use space, I will put here the techniques I use in my creative process, created by myself, since organization until the ending. Thanks to such process I am able to produce 10 pages of work per day.

First, let's start with an idea.

Oh, but an idea isn't something that simply falls out of the sky, right?

Right. An idea comes from our minds. Did you actually think you would just look up and see several ideas? is actually possible, and I will explain later how this is possible. But before that I will talk about the act of having an idea.

Gilles Deleuze, in a book with a name I don't remember right now, talks about the signs. Not those of the Zodiac, but signs as the objects of tempo learning. This directly means that we don't think about the creation itself, we remember what we already learned before. I blatantly disagree. I believe that the creation process is a learning process itself. With that, I say that an idea is a creation, and a creation is a learning experience. If you want to create something, just learn with the concept only you know about.

For example: let's create a story. We need a theme. But if no theme pleases us, let's make something of our own. I apply as an example a story I created myself.

First part: the world.

In which part of the world our story can happen? Brazil? Japan? United States? I don't know. I would need to have a level of knowledge about any place that it wasn't anyone where I lived before. But I also don't want a story that is around my corner.

What to do then? Let's create our own world, together. Oh, but I will need countries, continents and everything else. Right, but nobody told me that the world has to be fully created right at this moment. So let's take only one continent. To avoid any gaps in our story, we can always check what we already wrote as we advance the narrative. For now, let's take that continent and name it randomly. Hm, let's see. We will call our new continent “Vektor”.

Alright, we have a brand new world, with the continent called Vektor. We need a State now. Countries? Districts? We don't need that yet, we have the basic, a continent.
Now, let's create a character. He doesn't need to be the main one, and his story doesn't need to be complex yet. But he doesn't need to be something cliche like "a young boy with lots of potential who just wishes to be the strongest". Please, we are creating a story, not a delusion. We need to put some quality here.

Excluding the randomness, let's go for our first concept: appearance. There are two ways to do that. The first way consists on imagining our character right in front of us, while the second way, very risky for those who lack maturity at some level, it is to imagine the character when we look at the mirror.

I criticize the maturity here because several people tend to project their own characteristics and their inner desires, exaggerating their qualities, in a way to create a Gary Stu who looks exactly like him. I believe that to be a subjective and subconscious form of bragging. But, as I said, it is just a case of lack of maturity. Sometimes talent too.

Basing myself on the last paragraph, let's then use the first form. Of course it is an imaginary character, but writing also requires guts, those being the guts to say what we want to say, and/or guts to completely dive inside our own imaginary story. We are here creating a complete world, so what's a batter vision than the one we have from inside such world?

Then, I will imagine the character standing right in front of me. He doesn't look so strong physically, he has the muscles of an average slim person. As he looks at me, I notice he has brown hair, and he is about my shoulder's height. Since I am a very short person, with nothing but 6'8”, then I will say that he is 6’1”. When he looks at me I see that he has blue eyes. I could be poetic here and make an analogy, but it won't be appropriate, I only use analogy for female characters. It's a great flaw of mine, I admit, but that's because I am more of a romantic poet than a writer myself. And I never experienced love about someone of the same gender as mine, so I couldn't possible try it without doing a terrible job.

Now, let's head to the personality of my new imaginary friend. How does he behave?

Let's see. We have two options. He can be evil, he can be a nice guy, he can be gentle, he can be mean. Alright, those were four options. But we are thinking on a limited way here. Why don't we merge all those options together? They say that each person has their personality molded by their experiences, so let's say that he is not the talking type and he uses to be intolerant, but without being aggressive.

There we go. We have personality and looks. Now, we will go for his biography.

Whoops, but each person is a world. But no world has to be created right away. That said, let's forget about his past and create just a summary of it. Supposing that he is only 18 years old, let's say that our character, maybe the main one, maybe secondary, had a past that none of us would like to live. Notice here how I just created a general concept that allows me to give any chronological ramification inside the character's life.

And now, the most complex part: name.

Despite the looks, the character's name is the hardest part of the creation. You cannot think as an author, you have to think like you were the characters father or mother, or even both. When a regular person has a son, that person names it after something lived in the past, something desired or even something that person may want from/for the kid. That said, I can't give a Gary Stuish name to my character just because I want hum to be like that. I have to think inside the character's story, or give it a random name. That case, let's resort to the random name. I will call my character Wilford.

My word, what a pompous name. I didn't like it. Golden rule: anything in our world can be changed at any moment we desire. Because of that, if the name is not that fun, I can simply come up with the explanation that his name was fake, an invention or even a nickname. I don't need to be that brutal as well, I can simply give him a nickname and say that the character dislikes his own name.
Very well. We have here the world and the main character, with enough data on our hands. We can start our story. to start it?

Very simple: instead of throwing an introduction to occupy half chapter, do a full introductory chapter. Tell about the world, about some events, show the character off. In my case I explained everything I had created about the world up to that moment. Since I didn't know what I would use later on the story, I made all the explanation under one character's point of view. At that way, in case I do not like some part of it, I can always resort to the golden rule and put an event and/or another character to show the actual events.

Remember: the character is not always right. The fact that he said that doesn't mean such thing is true. After all, our creations are not omniscient. Neither are we.

With that step we have an introduction. We don't need to flush the plot in right away, let's give some time for the character to blend in. More situations will mean more consequences. More consequences will mean more chances for us to filter the facts and slip our plots in a subtle way, along with certain specific fact. And even more, we can create parallel plots and stories based in those situations.

Right. Now we have a world, a character, a first chapter and several openings to several kinds of plots. We can write about anything, without limits, that has any direct relationship with that. See? There isn't all that mystery on creating a story.

Oh, but I am not done yet. That was only –one- example. Let's proceed with our explanation. I wrote less than half of what I plan and I still have my main point in mind. So, I will give you something that is related with the example and with the whole text written so far now.
I want to talk about a concept that is a very powerful and necessary tool for anyone who wants to write about anything. It is something that, if abused, can remove all the fun of our story to our readers.

It's the popular concept called Deus ex Machina.

Bluntly speaking, Deus Ex Machina is the non cannon character, i.e, the character that doesn't belong to the regular story line, and that suddenly has all the solutions to all the problems, all the answers to all the questions, and helps  the main group in a way that no one will ever be able to do. Basically is the guest star who shows up in the end of the chapter/episode and saves everyone in five seconds.

See how the story can be ruined? In two short paragraphs an author simply neglected everything he wrote so far. That is severely unpleasing.

However, despite it doesn't look like that, Deus ex Machina is the most important thing for an author. Allow me to explain why.

See, despite our golden rule allows us to change anything at any moment, unless we are writing about a shapeshifting god, we cannot simply raise the character's abilities abruptly like nothing happened to him, not without a very good explanation. But we cannot as well put him in situations where he won't need to reach his limits, otherwise there will be no tension in his story. Therefore, our character will always need to suffer in our grasp.

However, every character his it's limits. He may be in an imaginary world, with imaginary things and maybe even other intelligent races, but our character is still a human being (or any other random race you'd prefer), and yet he still has his limits. Therefore, like any respected author, you will eventually go through the unpleasing experience where your creation will have a problem on his hands that he will be unable to handle, so he will need our help. For that exact objective we have Deus ex Machina.
Do you want to see an example of what I have just said? A manga called Rurouni Kenshin, more specifically, the fight between Kenshin and Shishioh. With all the involved factors, there was no how for Kenshin to defeat his opponent, so he would need to be saved. The author couldn't simply go there and write “Kenshin stands up like nothing happened and defeats his opponent because he is the awesome”. Sadly, despite the golden rule, we are still stuck of what we create, at some level. So, what did Kenshin’s creator do? He used the Deus ex Machina

Oh, so that's why Sanosuke, Aoshi and Saitou san got into the fight?

No. They were just an attempt to explore something alternative. When Kenshin fainted, nothing would stop Shishioh from killing him and ending the story right there, so the author threw 3 characters inside the situation to gain some time. I wouldn't be surprised if he used Yahiko in the fight as well.

Well, so where is Deus ex Machina there?

I answer: on Shishioh’s time limit. Those who read the story will remember that, because of his burns, Shishioh couldn't get into a physical activity that would last more than 15 minutes, or his body temperature would raise so much that he would get on fire (?) and burn to death. So, the actual Deus ex Machina there was when, during the fight, Shishioh started to squirm and simply bursted into flames, dying. The limitation was the solution, not the party of the punching bags of justice that happened on that scene.

But, since this is a tool that can be used by the author, we can always use that in a comical way. An example of that is the series Stargate SG1, that uses this concept in a satirical way. Notice that, in every episode, or at least in most of them, some guest character appears and handles every problem, and they went so far on that that they laughed and made jokes about that fact inside the series. In one episode one character says “he could show up and handle everything right now”, and said character appears five seconds later with all the answers.

What is the difference between both examples? The first example uses the concept in a nearly desperate way, while the second example uses it in a comical view. I am not going to talk about their talent, but I leave here the demonstration that technique is not enough, we need to know how to use what we have available to us.
I imagine here that you are all wondering: “But writing is really that easy? Isn't tiring at all?”

Yes and no.

Writing is easy when you know what do to. It is mentally tiring, yes, and even physically tiring, considering that you can excruciate your beloved paw. But there is a way to get around that situation easily.

First, let's go back to the main point of my article and talk about writing itself, and only that. As I have demonstrated already, there is a whole creating process here, but something is missing. It's the execution process. This is the pure and simple act of throwing into the paper everything we had. However, sadly, this is the only part that it is actually a bit hard.

The reason is simple, but unexpected: courage. We need creative to come up with something new, intelligence to tone up or down what we create, wisdom to use wisely our resources and tools, and courage to write what we think. Sometimes we would've make all the difference in one single text, but we simply failed n that because, for some reason, we already see our creation-to-be as something that will be rejected in some aspect, and our creation because a literary abortion. Sad, isn't it? Very much. I threw out at least 3 poems because of that.

So, how do we proceed on that situation?

Very simple: write down all the ideas you have that are related to your text. Just like that.

But isn't there the part where we can lose the line and exaggerate our creations?

Hell yes, hence there is the self criticism. Whenever I write anything, for the sake of quality control, I simply write everything in a notebook and then I pass it to the computer. Before that I reread what I wrote. Therefore, I rewrite my texts at least once, and review them at least thrice. That not only gives us a high quality control to our content but also allows us to change anything at any point. It also allows us to have any other ideas, why not?
At that point, I presume someone reading this will say that this is like Brainstorming. Now, I say right back at those people: Please, do not offend me like that.

I am very aware of that fact that this concept is fairly used, but only it's name disgusts me very much. Sadly I will have to mention it on this part of my article.

For those who don't know, Brainstorming, a name that makes me shiver in disgust, consists in a personal or group dynamics, so all the participating heads can throw their ideas in a specific context and blend them until they find a common line.

I probably hate that very much because I was introduced to it at the sixth grade, when my literature teacher, a hideous sad woman who deserves nothing but to have a very long life so she can be miserable for a longer time, and she is probably lonely, forced her students to make several essays about that technique like it could save the human intelligence. She went far enough to publicly humiliate a Japanese student who said that it wasn't a very effective technique. Alright, maybe I don't like that teacher.

But I agree with the Japanese kid who said that. Brainstorming is unnecessary.  Just think from the blunt point of view: it's a thinking technique. Holy moly, are we so low down on stupidity that we actually need techniques to think? For the love of my soul, what's so mysterious on using the brains? We have around 100 billion brain cells.

Nevertheless, there is another issue: this technique forces people to dynamic their minds, in an attempt to solve their problems in a quick way. But, as Deleuze said, we cannot simply decide to have an idea like that and squeeze our brain to drink some creativity juice. More you use this technique I hate so much, more you get anxious and nervous, and less it will work. In the end you just spend twice the regular time just to feel useless, inefficient and imbecile. I wouldn't be surprised if that was true. About the technique, not you being an imbecile.
Now, allow me to introduce you all to the technique I use, a technique I created myself. It consists on doing the opposite of the disgusting thing I was talking about. I call it Idea Fishing.

The image that you probable have in your brain right now proceeds as true.

Right, the definition is quite simple: imagine a theme that you want to attack (Attack does not mean necessarily an aggression, it means that you will interact, talk about it, or anything like that. So, attack can be read as ‘talk about that’). Let's return to the creation example aforementioned. Imagine that you've wrote everything already, it is all done, you published and it is a huge success. Excellent. Now imagine that someone is interviewing you and asks about your work. Think calmly as how you would answer all the questions, about how you would explain your own created world. If you wish, you can use the alternative option of imagining some character of your story telling anything about it. Just that part will be enough to improve your creative capacity's efficiency, even if it's just for a little bit.

Oh, but isn't that something you criticized already? Isn't that like having a Muse?

No, for the simple reason that, on this case, you have to be completely relaxed, and yet in control. If you are a Buddhist, imagine this is a similar way to achieve inner peace. Ally that to the guts of writing anything and the self confidence within your mind, and you will be able to write about anything at any time, you will just need a piece of paper and a pencil or pen. Remember, even if the situation doesn't allow you to be at peace, your problems will never change who you are neither decrease your talent.

Oh yeah, the difference from that to the passive creativity is that, despite the looks, what you do here is to pull off your ideas from the deep parts of your mind. When you focus and imagine your target, your subconscious will act with you and give your mind everything that it can bring from it's imagination. That's how the ideas come to us.

Try it. Imagine our friend Wilford in any world, even if it's the real world. Imagine him just walking at the streets and interacting with the people. Forget about time, and notice how you start imagining several possibilities.

That's what I do whenever I want to write a story and/or a poem. And believe me, I want that all the time.
Very well, so far now we only talked about writing a story. I used examples of action, adventure, mystery (my teacher's personal life) and even some drama (why that idiot done that to me and my classmates?).

But what about the romance?

Oh, good old romance. Much more than dumped-person-pain, much more than cheesy love songs. Much more than simply liking, much more than caring, much more than feeling. The original romance that lost itself in the timeline and today it's seen as nothing but a sugary ridiculous love story.

I don't blame those who say that. Considering the stupid concept that I have seen around, and the closed-minded definition of romance, a story with glittery vampies would be a romance. It makes me sad just to hear people saying to me “do not mock the glitter!”. I bet someone who writes that uses the Brainstorming.

Ahem. The actual romance is almost lost, but I am proud to say that my poetry keeps romance in it's pure original form, such form that consists on tasting the intensity of love in a nearly artistic way, without exaggerations, dreaming of what we want, with such love that makes us imagine ourselves with our object of desire, which goes up to the happy ending with her. But then we open our eyes and realize that everything was just a dream. Romance is to take our feet from the ground to put them back on the same place. It's the happiness that doesn't melt our heart, it's the beautiful pain, that doesn't make you cry, that doesn't make you feel like you are alone in the darkness. That sweet love pain that puts a smile on our faces, because it was good while it lasted. It doesn't have to be all sad, it may be just slightly melancholic. But it doesn't have to be sad at all, it may even have some criticism. In a recent poem I wrote “This is our happy ending / sitting here and pretending / that going nowhere / is the same thing as having our future here”.

This is the true romance. I criticized something, but I remained inside the beautiful part of it.
I just had an idea. I am going to demonstrate what is a romantic poem right now. Let's create a poem together. I will let my courage flow and pretend that none of you will laugh of my words. I will call it “The Love I've never seen”
The love I've never seen
May have never been
My real love from the start
The real on inside my heart

The love I've never seen
Was never here with me
Not that I could even see
I never had you, my queen

The love I've never seen
So I never looked around
To listen to your heart's sound
Is lost in this field, so green

The love I've never seen
Was never really gone
And I was always alone
So dream about my love, then

In four short stanzas I have just gave an example of everything I've just put in this article about romance. But, of course, romance is not only that, and that's what is beautiful about the itself. Romance can be anything we want, in any ways we want, as long as we stay inside it's essence and find ourselves able to see the inner beauty of anything. See now why I said, in the beginning, that we can look up and find an idea?

Do you know what was my inspiration for that poem? I was right now just looking to my computer's screen and thinking how people who communicate over the internet can't see each other when they trade their messages. At the same time, some of those people get too attached to other people they only know of sentences and pictures, if they go that far. Therefore, some of them may have loves they've never seen, hence why I made this poem. It wasn't quite the logical conclusion like I am making it look like, it was just an inspiration based in two things that were in my mind while I was preparing this text.

But how did I get to that conclusion? You should know already: Idea Fishing. I just asked myself “How would be a poem talking about being unable to see someone and yet get to attached to such person?”

Of course, I am a romantic poet by nature, things are easier for me on that matter. But that doesn't mean that anyone else can make something so intense, they just need to apply what they know about it.

But here there is a concept I've forgot to add so far: Idea Fishing doesn't consist only in searching concepts at random, it also consists on learning with every concept.

That's right, you don't just use what is there already. You learn and recreate whatever you already learned someday. Sadly, I can teach about the creative process, about how to organize everything, about how to get ideas and recreate them, but I can't teach you how to learn, I am not God. Maybe one day I will be, but not today.

Now, speaking of learning, I still have to talk about the second part of the Art of Writing: the act of writing. This is pure physical activity. Not like in a gym or something, but there is still physical activity in that process. But there is also mental activity. Writing can be tiring. You can get your mind tired as well as your body, since writing uses your muscles of your arms and hand.

How do we handle that? In a way that is way simpler than you imagined so far: forgetting about time. That's right, pretend that you have your whole life to write that. And don't you have it? I didn't know there was a rule for that. If there is I will ignore. Sue me.

First, always take breaks. Yes, relax, let everything go. If things start to get rough, let go of your notebook and go do something else. Whenever you miss your work, resume it. In the beginning things will be slow, but more you go on your work, more willed you get, and get less tired with your work. I say that for personal experience. Simply ignore your text for a moment and take your mind off it completely. Whenever you feel your motivation returning, wait for a while and then you go back to work on it.

Now, you are probably wondering if that won't mean a slower process of writing. Yes, it does. But only at the beginning. There is, however, a undeclared law in the writer's world: Slower we write it, quicker we produce it. And it's true: as we achieve the habit of the creative production, more we will write, faster we write and better we write. Also, more we enjoy writing. I used to need 4 days to write a single poem. Today I write 2 per day. But that is also because of my Idea Fishing technique.
However, while I wrote this article, someone mentioned to me an opposite issue.

What if we like to write too much?

A philosopher called Edmund Husserl wrote 11,000 pages during his life. Considering that the few pages I read were severely displeasing, I feel a great wish to burn all the other pages. Still, there is the problem with those who have this issue of wanting to write always more and more.

My good mates, there is no problem on that at all. For real. What is wrong on always having extra words? Alternatives I thought here: hard to build the text, always forgetting something and issues to organize the text.

Right, first alternative: it's hard to build the text.

For that I will give a brief answer. Everybody goes through that, then there is nothing unusual with you. Oh, you want to know how to handle it. Write an index, and fish the ideas in a common way. If you think that something is missing, add an extra paragraph. If you think that there is something more, be an ogre and risk it all.

Second alternative: always forgetting something.Come on, you are not even trying. Whenever you think you are done, reread your own text. Imagine, as you read, that you are writing everything again and again. If you notice that you forgot something, again, add an extra paragraph. If you still want to write that again, in case you intent to pass it from the notebook to the computer, put it as a side note and your problem is solved. Organization doesn't have to follow aesthetics.

Third alternative: organization.

My word, that one is almost hard. In order to organize our text properly we have to reread it. If you think the order of your paragraphs is not right, add numbers beside each one of them, and your problem will be solved.

There is also another question that might appeared by surprise: what if I have an idea while I am outside, where I can't write?

Well, I always have with me a pen and a paper. On that case I just sit somewhere and execute my idea right away. But I am weird, so I will say what a regular person would do: memorize the idea.

Oh, but isn't an idea the part of learning? Yes. Whenever you have the chance you will recreate it.
So you just fell in contradiction? Don't use that tone with me.
Sorry. Then I will ask properly: how do I memorize the idea?

Good boy. Now that you asked properly, I will give you the concept of sensory memory.

Have you ever notice how you listen to two seconds of a song and then you remember everything about it? How you scent something and imagine a full plate of food in front of you? That is sensory memory. But what most people don't know is that our sensory memory can be used just like our regular brain memory. Musicians use their hearing memory.

For example: I have an idea, but I am in the middle of the street, there is nothing I can use now. So I will use my senses. What music am I listening to right now? What did I say right at this moment? Did I look to my feet while I was walking? Did I sip my cappuccino when I had that idea? Try focusing on that fact.

In order to use the sensory memory, on that case, let's use the cappuccino example. I don't drink cappuccino all the time, but I still drink it sometimes. If I had an idea while I was sipping the cappuccino, I can use my tasting memory. My apologies here, I don't know the correct word for that in English. Anyways, I just need to take a big sip and think “I had this idea when I took a big sip of my cappuccino”, and then stop thinking about it. Automatically, the idea goes to your subconscious, linked to the cappuccino. Whenever you get home, buy another cappuccino, grab a pen and a paper, relax and take a big sip of your drink. The idea will return naturally. That happens because your subconscious stores every impulse you have, and by doing that you will be able to access that storage and manipulate your deep mind.

Congratulations. Now you have six different memories at your service.

Understand it now? There is not a mystery in writing, as well as there is no mystery on doing a big wall of text. It is all about focusing. When you relax and focus only on your text, or when you fish your ideas and focus on your creativity, and when you read my words and focus only on those words, and not on the fact that there are about 26,000 characters on all this text.

Whoa, 26,000? I didn't even realize that.

Exactly. Just the idea of making a text this huge gets me tired, but I did everything I demonstrated here and managed to write all of this without effort. I am so worked up right now that I will even write a poem whenever I finish this article. Do you know why? Because I knew how to focus on the right parts.

There is the Art of Writing. I hope my text have helped someone to be a better writer. Cheers and good night.

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Re: The Art of Writing
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2010, 08:17:07 pm »
You're definitely right about the physical and mental acts of writing combining to tire people out. Since becoming an English major, my will to write for anything other than school and work has been utterly sapped. I only recently revitalized it by combining it with my love of beer. Aside from that, my muse is damned near dead by the end of the day.